A “Carol” for the Ages
It’s fair to say that no Christmas story except THE Christmas story (the one St. Luke relates) has had more enduring popularity than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the brief survey below of dramatic adaptations, I’m going to focus solely on films (excluding all TV and animated versions – and ones with puppets), despite the fact that fine actors such as George C. Scott, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, and Patrick Stewart have participated in some of them.
The very first dramatic presentation of A Christmas Carol was by Dickens himself, who read the book to enthusiastic audiences in Birmingham, England in 1853, a decade after the book’s publication. Since then there have been more than sixty theatrical productions (in an uncountable number of performances, including revivals), several dozen cinematic versions, and nearly three-dozen TV or direct-to-video versions. I’m not going to attempt to tally up all the radio performances and recorded books. There have been four operas. And you probably couldn’t count the number of TV series that have had episodes with a haunted-villain-changes-his-life storyline.
Mr. Dickens was not a Catholic (in fact, he called our faith “a curse upon the world”), and he was not a particularly enthusiastic Anglican either. But he did have a sense of how faith can transform lives, and it’s reasonable to say that, in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has a born-again experience (well, better to call it metanoia) thanks to the visits of the three ghosts.